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France’s Memento to Sell Sundance Player ‘Lock Charmer’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Sophomore outing from Natalia Smirnoff (“Puzzle”) stars Esteban Lamothe (“The Student”)

PARIS — Re-upping with one of its multiple breakout talents in recent years, Paris-based Memento Films International (MFI) will handle world sales on Natalia Smirnoff’s Sundance-selected drama “Lock Charmer.”

Produced by Juan-Pablo Miller’s Buenos Aires-based Tarea Fina –whose credits include Cannes Camera d’Or winner “Las Acacias” and Berlin-selected “Natural Sciences,” which won Ventana Sur coveted Primer Corte award last month — “Lock Charmer” plays from Tuesday week at the Sundance Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

Also written by Smirnoff, whose debut, “Puzzle,” was a festival and sales hit, “Lock Charmer” stars Esteban Lamothe (“The Student”) as a commitment-phobic 33-year-old locksmith who, having found out his on-off girlfriend is pregnant and he might well be the father, starts to have – quite accurate – visions about his clients on the other side of the doors he’s working on. He reluctantly sets out to use his gift for his own good.

“After learning so much by entering into the deep waters of motherhood with ‘Puzzle,’ being immersed in a woman’s perspective, I was really excited to explore the other side: Fatherhood,” Smirnoff said.

She added: “There is in men, or let’s say in fatherhood, something like a imbalance towards women, because a man cannot bear the child in his womb…. It’s not the same to know that something is happening than to feel it, to hear it through a third person, without the child’s constant presence. I decided to amplify this situation in ‘Lock Charmer’ with an unexpected paternity, where nothing is prepared.”

“Lock Charmer” is set in a Buenos Aires that is engulfed in thick fog, though nobody knows exactly what’s caused it or how to get rid of it. “It’s a moment of confusion for everybody and a moment of confusion for the protagonist,” MFI’s Nicholas Kaiser said at the UniFrance Rendez-vous.

Lamothe turned heads starring in Santiago Mitre’s “The Student.” His contained performance made him one of the most sought-after Argentine actors of his generation.  Erica Rivas (“Tetro,” “Relatos salvajes”) co-stars.

“Memento Films is a director-driven company. Natalia Smirnoff is a gifted director and a great person. ‘Puzzle’ did well in terms of business and we wanted to continue to work with her,” Kaiser explained.

MFI acquired Argentine Smirnoff’s feature debut “Puzzle” off a rough-cut screening in San Sebastian’s Films in Progress.

Turning on a dowdy housewife who discovers her genius for solving puzzles, it went on to be selected for main competition in 2009’s Berlin Fest – no mean feat for a pretty-well unknown first-time director – and rapidly sell over much of the world including, among larger territories, France, Spain, Italy, U.K, Benelux, Sweden, Poland, Colombia, Mexico, Korea, Japan and Australia.

MFI’s “Lock Charmer’” sales rights deal excludes Argentina, Kaiser said.

Memento has sales rights to another Latin American film, “Mr. Kaplan,” directed by Uruguayan Alvaro Brechner (“A Bad Day To Go Fishing”), and produced by Brechner’s Baobab Films, Mariana Secco’s Salado Media and Germany’s Razor Films.

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